YAKIMA — When the end of the year arrives, so too will the end of a long-time term of service.

Yakima County Commissioner Mike Leita has announced his plans to retire, leaving Commissioners Norm Childress and Ron Anderson to select his successor for District 1.

The pair will be provided names of potential commissioners from among a list provided by Republican Party officials.

Since being elected to serve in the November 2004 general election, Leita has been involved in a number of decisions affecting Yakima County residents.

He contributed in the process to deal with budget deficits, what to do with the jail project completed just as he took office and whether to allow or ban retail sales, production and processing of recreational marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county.

The budget deficit of 2010, amounting to about $1.1 million, directly correlated with issues from the construction of the jail and the downturn of the economy in 2008, Leita said.

The jail was supposed to be completed in accordance with a contract with King County by 2003 or 2004, he said.

It was not completed on time, and King County threatened to sue for breach of contract, but negotiations led to the jail opening for about four years — 2006-10 — to fulfill the obligation.

But, the crisis led to the formation of the county’s Finance Services Department, led by Craig Warner, Leita noted.

“We were able to prioritize and work with other elected officials to develop budget policies,” he said.

Also resulting from the situation regarding the jail was a Master Facilities Plan to hold officials accountable, Leita said.

This allows a committee to look at and assess the conditions of the county’s facilities, consolidating where possible.

Leita was also a commissioner when the county turned operations of the Yakima Airport over to the city of Yakima and helped to serve the residents of the Lower Yakima Valley with the opening of a District Court in Grandview.

Leita’s term will expire at the end of 2020, and the person appointed to the position will need to run for election that year, if they wish to keep the post beyond Dec. 31, 2020.

“I’ve been appreciative of my time… there were a lot of opportunities and changes,” he said, noting it’s his belief “… we represent the people and represent their will.”

Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email JMcGhan@sunnysidesun.com

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